Texas Tech is heavily considering parting ways with head coach Matt Wells, sources told FootballScoop on Sunday.
Sources said Texas Tech’s administration has been deliberating a move for more than a week, and a final outcome has not been determined at this time. The Red Raiders completed a 4-6 regular season with a 16-13 win over Kansas on Dec. 5; the December signing period opens Wednesday.
Wells signed a 6-year, $18.8 million contract ahead of the 2019 season that would require Texas Tech to pay him 70 percent of the remaining deal should the school fire him now. That would equate to $9.1 million, subject to offset by future employment.
In the event the school does move on, the search has the potential to be long and messy.
AD Kirby Hocutt is in an interesting position right now. The Red Raiders’ men’s basketball and baseball teams are among the national elite, but the remainder of the athletics department is in various stages of turmoil. Hocutt dismissed women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings in August following an exposé which revealed a culture of abuse inside the program, and softball coach Adrian Gregory resigned six weeks later after a similar pattern emerged inside that program.
It’s with that backdrop that a civil war has the potential to break out over Art Briles.
An alum and former Red Raiders running backs coach, Briles has not coached in college football since 2015, but a group of moneyed boosters has loudly argued for a return to his alma mater. Just last week a prominent Baylor alum released the results of an investigation into Briles’s dismissal from Baylor, which the pro-Briles camp will argue clears the deck for his return to major college football. The 65-year-old is now the head coach at Mount Vernon High School in northeast Texas. His team lost in the Class 3A Division I semifinals on Friday. Sources confirmed to FootballScoop.com that Briles has been vetted by multiple other Power-5 programs since he exited Baylor five years ago.
Hocutt’s track record on football hires has not been stellar. A former Big 8 linebacker himself, Hocutt hired Kliff Kingsbury and Wells, two moves that have seen the Red Raiders go a combined 24-48 in Big 12 play over the past eight seasons. While he had widespread support to bring home Kingsbury, the prolific former Tech quarterback and fresh off helping Johnny Manziel lead a maroon revival at Texas A&M, Hocutt’s hiring of Wells was not popular with donors or fans at the time and has grown less so since.
If the school does fire Wells and if the pro-Briles faction can be resisted, an open Texas Tech search could go a number of ways. The Red Raiders could look to stay in-state with successful former Texas high school coaches who have moved up the college ranks in UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor or Baylor associate head coach Joey McGuire or look outside the state to Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery, a longtime Briles lieutenant without the baggage. Montgomery’s Tulsa team will play Cincinnati for the AAC championship on Saturday.
Another name rising in coaching circles and with experience at Texas Tech is former Red Raiders defensive assistant Karl Scott, presently coaching defensive backs for Nick Saban’s top-ranked Alabama squad. Scott was well-liked at TTU, has recruited and developed players and already this offseason elicited interest from Southern Miss and Louisiana-Monroe.
Whatever direction Texas Tech happens to move, the focus needs to be on aiding a defense that has ranked seventh or lower in scoring defense in the Big 12 for 11 straight seasons.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.